Is Connecticut Ready to Address Its Ongoing Transportation Woes?
For the better half of a decade, policymakers and member of the public alike have been deadlocked in a heated debate over how best to fund Connecticut’s aging transportation infrastructure. From ninety year old rail bridges, crumbling overpasses, limited mass transit, and everything in between—Connecticut, like many northeast states, has a transportation problem.
What’s unique about the Nutmeg State has been the subject of intense controversy in recent months. Connecticut is the only state on the eastern seaboard without some form of tolling as a means to fund critical transportation projects. This lack of a dedicated funding stream has compounded over the years into a major problem as the ongoing debate between Democrats and Republicans continues this winter. Democrats argue that the state needs a new, dedicated funding source and Republicans argue that the state’s residents are stretched too far and enacting tolls would be another tax they cannot afford.
After reversing a campaign promise to push trucks only tolling, Governor Ned Lamont pursued a mix of trucks and car tolls during the 2019 legislative session without success. He’s now made an about face and—along with his democratic colleagues in the House and Senate—seams poised to enact trucks only tolls during a special session in January 2020. The argument for this new measure is strong. This “user fee” would capture about 40% of the revenue it generates from out of state truck drivers who do the most damage to the roads. This is a strong argument compared to bonding all projects where the burden of repayment falls solely on the Connecticut taxpayer.
While this is the only voter-tested method for funding new transportation projects, it’s not without its controversy. In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo is facing a legal challenge to her administration’s push for trucks only tolling that is expected to continue for several years. If the Connecticut Governor is successful, he’s likely to face the same legal challenge in the years ahead. Regardless of the outcome, something needs to be done. The key to Connecticut’s ongoing economic growth—to remain competitive, attract new talent, and retain businesses—is to fix the transportation system. Because of its strategic location between Boston and New York, the state will continue to miss out on opportunities to its neighbors if nothing changes.